[Marxism] Cuba Re: Goodbye to Leninism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 16 14:40:36 MST 2014

On 11/16/14 4:34 PM, Thomas via Marxism wrote:
> When was it that the means of production were seized by the Cuban
> working class and a government of their workers' councils elected
> from below adminiser the state, you know, like in Russia 1917?  Or is
> that form of working class rule now some silly old relic no longer
> applicable.


As the revolution deepened and took on more and more of a proletarian 
character, profound political changes began to take place within Cuba. 
These changes also acted upon the tempo of the revolution, adding fuel 
to the locomotive that was pushing it in a more and more radical 
direction. Once Castro had decided to align himself with the workers, he 
never turned back. He was never one to waver.

In Edward Boorstein's "The Economic Transformation of Cuba", we discover 
the ways in which ordinary workers, including blacks--the most 
oppressed--asserted themelves:

By October 1960 most of this administrative and technical personnel had 
left Cuba. The Americans and some of the Cubans were withdrawn by the 
home companies of the plants for which they worked, or left of their own 
accord: they found themselves unable to understand the struggle with the 
United States, unwilling to accept the new way of life that was opening 
up before them.

The Revolutionary Government had to keep the factories and mines going 
only with a minute proportion of the usual trained and experienced 
personnel. A few examples can perhaps best give an idea of what happened.

Five of us from the Ministry of Foreign Commerce, on a business visit, 
were being taken through the Moa nickel plant. In the electric power 
station--itself a large plant--which served the rest of the complex, our 
guide was an enthusiastic youngster of about 22. He did an excellent job 
as guide, but his modesty as well as his age deceived us and only toward 
the end of our tour did we realize that he was not some sort of 
apprentice engineer or assistant--he was in charge of the plant. I 
noticed that he spoke English well and asked him if he had lived in the 
States. "Sure," he answered, "I studied engineering at Tulane." As soon 
as he finished, he had come back to work for the Revolution and had been 
placed in charge of the power plant.

In another part of the complex, the head of one of the key departments 
was a black Cuban who had about four years of elementary school 
education. He had been an observant worker and when engineer of his 
department left he knew what to do--although he didn't really know why, 
or how his department related to the others in the plant. Now to learn 
why, he was plugging away at his minimo tecnico manual--one of the 
little mimeographed booklets which had been distributed throughout 
industry to improve people's knowledge of their jobs.

And so on throughout the Moa plant. The engineer in charge of the whole 
enterprise, who had a long cigar in his hand and his feet on the desk as 
he gave us his criticisms of the way our Ministry was handling his 
import requirements, was about 28 years old. His chief assistants were 
about the same age and some of them were obviously not engineers.

Yet Moa was made to function. Even laymen are struck with its delicate 
beauty--a testament to American engineering skill. 'Es una joya'--it's a 
jewel, say the Cubans. It is much more impressive than the larger but 
older nickel plant at Nicaro. Shortly after the nickel ore is clawed out 
of the earth by giant Bucyrus power shovels, it a pulverized and mixed 
with water to form a mixture 55 percent and 45 percent water. From then 
on all materials movement is liquids, in pipes, automatically 
controlled. The liquids move through the several miles of the complex, 
in and out of the separate plants, with the reducers, mixing vats, etc. 
Everything depends on innumerable delicate instruments, and on unusual 
materials, resistant to exceptions high temperatures and various kinds 
of chemical reaction. The margin for improvising in repairing or 
replacing parts is small-much smaller than in the mechanized rather than 
the automated Nicaro plant. Yet the Moa plant was in operation when we 
were there: two of the main production lines were going-and all four 
would have been going jf it had not been necessary to cannibalize two 
lines to get replacement parts for the other two.

Except that Moa was an especially complex and difficult operation, jt 
was typical of what happened throughout the mines and factories, and far 
that matter in the railroads, banks, department stores, and movie houses 
that had been taken over. The large oil companies had expected that the 
Cubans would not be able to run the oil refineries. But they were wrong. 
When a co-worker and I talked to the young administrator of the now 
combined Esso-Shell refineries across the bay from Havana, he said, only 
half-jokingly, that he was about two lessons ahead of us in his 
understanding of how the refinery worked--and I wondered how it was kept 
going. But we had been around the ten minutes earlier and there it 

A textile plant was placed in the charge of a bearded young man of about 
23 who had impressed Major Guevara with his courage and resourcefulness 
in the Rebel Army. The former Procter and Gamble plant, which each year 
turns out several million dollars worth of soaps, and tooth paste, was 
run by a former physician who, besides being generally able, knew some 
chemistry. For many months, the Matahambre copper mine was in the charge 
of an American geologist, a friend of mine. After coming to Cuba to work 
for the Revolution, he had been pressed into service, though he was not 
a mining engineer and had never run a mine, because he was still the 
most qualified person available. He had to educate himself rapidly in 
mine ventilation; this was one of Matahambre's biggest problems at the 
time. I went through the mine with him once end it was obvious from the 
way the men treated him that he had gained their respect for the way he 
was handling his job.

Once an economist from the Ministry of Industry and I visited a large 
plant near Matanzas that produced rayon for tires, textiles, and export. 
We sensed at the plant that the harassed, outspoken administrator, 
almost the only engineer left, was all but sustaining the whole 
operation by himself. We got into a conversation about him with one one 
of his assistants. It turned out he had a bad leg of some sort which was 
giving him trouble; his father, who had owned valuable property in the 
nearby swanky bathing resort at Varadero was out of sympathy with the 
Revolution; and his brother, also an engineer, had left for Venezuela or 
some such place. But there he was, holding a meeting with his staff at 
11 P.M., using all his energy to help keep the rayonera going.

When you walked through a Cuban factory, you didn't need to be told that 
it was under new management--you could see and feel it everywhere. In 
the Pheldrake plant for producing wire and cable, formerly owned by 
Dutch and American interests, the whole office of administration was 
filled by men in shirt-sleeves who were unmistakably workers; the 
engineers had gone and the workers had taken over. On the main floor, a 
group of them were struggling--using baling wire techniques--to repair 
one of the extrusion machines so that the wire required by the Cuban 
telephone industry could be kept coming. In a large tobacco factory, the 
administrator was black; in the metal-working plant formerly owned by 
the American Car and Foundry Company, the head of a department turning 
out chicken incubators was black. Black people had not held such 
positions before the Revolution.

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